Bluebeard, Redbeard – Part 1

In hopes that it will be fruitful, today I gladly introduce to this blog a new category and a new menu’s voice: short tales. Enjoy

 

One day a girl was married to a man.

Walking towards the altar, the girl looked at her betrothed for the first time. The man was twice her age, twice her size, and he had a beard that was as long as the girl was tall. It was a thick beard. It was a smooth beard. The light of the many candles lit around the altar made the beard shine and from it came a pungent smell of spice. At first sight, the girl thought the beard was black, but at a closer look, she could see that, actually, the beard was navy blue, interlaced with many different hues of that colour.

The priest’s voice forced the girl out of her fixation. He was asking her to confirm her will to marry the man in front of her. The girl bent her head.

Then, the priest asked the man and from under the beard came a steady: – Yes! –

The long, hairy hands of the man raised the girl’s white veil above her head and she knew that the moment for her lips to meet the man’s lips had come. But the hands gently guided the girl’s face against the beard while a touch as soft as the wings of a butterfly touched her forehead. The girl could barely feel the kiss, like if it was immensely distant, like if it was happening to someone else. In that moment, she was engulfed into the blue beard. The beard was against her mouth, slimy and gross. The beard was in her nose, spiced and itchy. Blue strands of beard blinded her eyes and brushed her skin. The moment after, the room appeared again around the girl, now filled with chants, and whistles, and crashing hands from the guests. The ceremony was complete and everybody was celebrating the new couple.

The girl resisted the impulse to brush her mouth and face with her delicate lace gloves to not offend the man, but as soon as they were seated at the dinner table, she spilt some water from her glass and dragged a napkin across her face. It was too late. The smell of the man’s beard had impregnated her skin and she could have sworn that her white dress had acquired a pale bluish shade on the front, where it had been touched by the beard. For as long as the banquet went on, the girl stared at that beard. While he was still sober, the man tried more than once to start a conversation with the girl, but he could not win more than a spoonful of syllables from his young wife, and he resorted to drinking.

After the banquet, the inebriated guests escorted the girl and the man to their nuptial chamber. The girl was at the head of the little parade, a trembling candle in her hand. The man was in the arms of his friends and brothers, defeated by the wine. The girl opened the door and had to run inside before the guests stomped on her.  Once in the room, they knocked the man down on the bed and left.

The moment after the guests hastily shut the door with a thump, the sound of a jingling bell broke the newly acquired silence of the room. The girl looked at the door, but there was no bell hanging from the engraved wood panels. Curious! Thought the girl, and she turned her head away from the door to place her candle on the small dining table close to the window, which the handmaids had filled with fruits, pastries, and more wine. But the jingle played again, silvery and sharp.

The girl paused with the candle still in her hand and looked around the dim lit room. On the bed, the man seemed to be deeply asleep. She turned again, placed the candle on the table and froze right where she was standing. A third jingle had rung. She turned her eyes around the room once more. She stared into the darkest corners. Everything was still. Nevertheless, the jingle was real and it rang again. The girl looked at the man, his chest rising and falling as he was breathing.

– Are you awake, my lord? –

The man didn’t answer or move. Just his beard rose and fell together with the man’s chest under the spell of breathing. The jingle played again. Staring at the beard, the girl dared to step closer to the bed and, finally, she saw it. Something twinkled in a silvery shade in the middle of his husband’s blue beard. The girl waited with her eyes on the beard until she heard the jingle play again, in tempo with the breath and the tiny silver flash. She saw that it was a key.

The tiny silver key was hanging at the end of a silver chain which roots disappeared in the depth of her husband’s blue beard. It was a peculiar key. Its bow was in the shape of a heart and it had no apparent cuts, just a long and narrow shoulder, and a tip which was turned upwards.

The girl prolonged a hand towards the key but as she moved, her soft bootee slipped on the beard’s tip laying on the floor, and the girl tripped onwards. She planted both her hands in front of her to stop the falling, but they passed through the soft and rich blue beard. The girl she screamed but her scream fell inside the beard with her.Darkness was all around.

Darkness was all around.

The beard was all around her and it was rough, and it was soft and the girl was still screaming, but the air ended and her throat couldn’t find anymore. There was only hair, only blue, only the beard. She closed her eyes to see no more of it.

The girl opened her eyes in broad daylight. She was wearing a linen nightgown and was tucked in the nuptial bed up to her shoulders. The light was so bright she had to exhume one hand from underneath the heavy blankets and shield her eyes from the sun. A shadow came then from a darker corner of the room and stopped in front of the open window. She could not see to whom the shadow belonged. She thought it was her husband, but where was the beard? She thought it was a maid, but when the figure spoke the voice was too low and deep.

“Once upon a time, a girl was married to a man.”

Said the voice in the shadow.

“Walking towards the altar, the girl looked at her betrothed for the first time. The man was twice her age, twice her size, and he had a beard that was as wide as the girl.”

– And the beard was blue –

– No, my dear. – Said the shadow voice. – The beard was red.-

– Red?- Asked the little bride, ready to fall asleep again.

– Red as fire.-

The sleepy girl closed her eyes and within her shut eyelids she saw the altar, the beard, and the maiden, who was older than her, and taller and had redder lips.

– Was she a beautiful bride?-

– She was a beautiful bride, indeed, and courageous and curious .-

– And then?-

– And then she died. – Said the shadow voice with a sigh.

Underneath the soft blankets and the smooth, silky sheets, the tender wife felt a cold, sneaky strike of fear chilling her bones, sweeping away the sleepiness within her mind.

– Did she die on that night? Did she die on her wedding night? –

– No, my dear. She died some time afterwards. But – the shadow moved towards the girl and touched her forehead with cold, dry lips – you should sleep some more. You caught a fever and you need rest. –

– But I don’t feel sleepy! Not now… –

The shadow tucked her in the bed. Soft warmness embraced the girl’s limbs once again. She sensed a smile, somewhere in the shadow’s darkness. A finger played with the tip of her nose and she giggled.

– And then, the ceremony ended and they had a luxurious buffet. –

– Yeah! –

The shadow placed a finger on her lips. The girl shut her mouth and nodded to be good.

“And then they had a luxurious buffet with rosts, and spirits, and fruits and plates and plates of sweets, and cakes, and biscuits.

The girl yawned once. Then yawned twice. And then yawned for the third time and she fell asleep. The man who was her husband and had twice her age looked at her rosy eyelids and stroke her chubby cheek and kissed her smooth hand while she was sleeping. Then walked to the door, exited his nuptial bedroom and with a key hanging from a chain around his neck he locked his child bride inside. Then he adjusted the chain, the beard and the collar of his robe, ready for the morning inspection of his mansion and all his other possessions.

 

 

TO BE CONTINUED

 

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